iEARN at Village Charter School: learning in action!

Trenton Dubai
Reprinted from the Village Charter School, January 27, 2012 newsletter

Technology teacher Deanne McBeath gives us a glimpse into how the ongoing iEARN project, Finding Solutions to Hunger, at VCS exceeds the requirement of the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards for English language arts and literacy in social studies, science, and technical subjects.

"The goal of the iEARN project is to open the students' eyes to hunger in the world. Students are learning what constitutes a 'global issue,' how to communicate and collaborate with other cultures, and develop excellent research and problem-solving skills in this online, collaborative learning environment."

The students learned how to make animations to illustrate the information they found when investigating the causes of hunger, and developed essential research and critical thinking skills. In addition, our students learned to analyze the material on the issue of hunger, as it exists in both their community and in the world, by reading and analyzing stories by different authors.

We sent teddy bears to a school in Kenya, and in the process learned what can happen when food is sent to other countries. Our teddy bear gifts were held at the post office for an exorbitant 'fee' that the school in Kenya could not afford to pay. We held a fundraiser to help that school pay the fee, and we learned what it was like when rebels held up UN aid to countries suffering from a food crisis. Our fifth-grade class created a book based on a story about the bears sent to us from the Igwamati Primary School in Kenya.

The iEARN Youth Forum is an important part of the experience. It allows our students to interact with students from around the world in an online environment. "The students were able to learn firsthand how important it is to communicate politely, in proper English, accepting differences as a way of the world-growing and learning from each other," explained Ms. McBeath. This opportunity allows our students to deconstruct the stereotypes they have unconsciously absorbed about other cultures, while also giving them the chance to dispel stereotypes others might perceive about them. Most recently, we had the opportunity to Skype with students in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The effects of the iEARN project are felt school-wide. Ms. McBeath shared future plans: "We have really made the Finding Solutions project into a cross-curricular phenomena. We are planning an assembly in May. The teachers are enthusiastic about the project. Our first- and fifth-grade teachers are sending the bears home and writing stories, the middle school teachers are also working together. The music teacher incorporated hunger as a theme in the holiday concert, the art teacher is using hunger to inspire artwork, and the social studies teacher made hunger in Africa a theme for a class project."

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